ATHENS, Ohio – Under thenth-year head coach Jodi Hermanek, the Ohio softball team will open the 45th season of Bobcat softball when they travel to Madeira Beach, Fla. to participate in the Madeira Beach Invitational, Feb. 16-18. While there the Bobcats will play five games in three days with matchups against Virginia, UNCG, Lipscomb, UMass and Jacksonville State.
The Bobcats will take on Virginia Friday at 11 a.m. and UNCG at 1:30 p.m. On Saturday, Ohio will face Lipscomb at 11 a.m. and UMass at 1:30. The Bobcats will wrap up play Sunday when they face Jacksonville State at 9:00 a.m.
The Bobcats were picked to finish second in the Mid-American Conference East Division, as voted by the head coaches of the 12 MAC institutions. The 2017 squad recorded 42 wins, the highest win total in program history, while finishing 17-7 in the conference.
Offensively, the Bobcats recorded the fourth-most hits in the conference (452), 36 homeruns, 269 runs scored and 246 RBI.
In the pitching circle, Ohio set the single-season record for strikeouts with 541 and threw the third-most innings pitched (411.1) in a single season in school history.
THE 2017 SQUAD
Ohio will return with four seniors, including Taylor Saxton and Mikayla Cooper. Both started in all 60 games. Saxton finished the season with a .317 batting average, a .377 OBP and led the team with 19 stolen bases. Cooper led the team with 18 doubles and 25 walks. She finished the season with a .337 batting average and a .425 OBP. Cooper was named the MAC player of the week once and made the All-MAC First Team.
Starting in the circle for the Bobcats is Senior Danielle Stiene. She finished the 2017 season with an ERA of 2.37 and was named Distinguished Scholar Athlete. Highlights from the previous season include her five-inning no-hitter against Lafayette and her seven-inning no-hitter against UNC Wilmington.
Also returning are infielder MacKenzie Brunswick and outfielder Deanna Cole. Brunswick finished the 2017 season with 28 hits and RBIs and five stolen bases. Cole was named Academic All-MAC and held the second-most stolen bases on the team.
NEW TO THE SQUAD
The Bobcats will welcome four newcomers to the 2018 team. Madi McCrady will look to contribute in the circle. She recorded an ERA under 1.3 all three years of high school. Allie Englant will look to contribute in the outfield; she was ranked first in the state during her 2017 season.
Katie Yun will look to join the infield after leading her team to the Regional Championship and Brooke Rice will look for time behind the plate after her high school team reigned supreme four years in a row.
Mercy College transfer Kendall Meeks also joins Ohio this year. At Mercy, she was named ECAC Rookie of the Week four times and ECC Rookie of the week three times. Prior to college, Meeks played softball for Alexander High School.
The Bobcats finished second in the Mid-American Conference preseason poll behind Kent State, who received six out of the possible 12 votes. They finished ahead of Miami.
The 2018 season marks head coach Jodi Hermanek's tenth season with Ohio. Out of her 357 career wins, 250 of them are with the Bobcats. Under her coaching, the 2017 squad recorded a program record of 42 wins and a MAC East Championship. For the first time, the Bobcats won the conference tournament and then went on the national post-season tournament for the first time in 19 years.
After finishing 22-32 overall and 9-15 in the conference, the Cavaliers qualified for the ACC tournament for the first time since 2013.
Among the returners are Allison Davis and Erika Osherow, both who were placed on the All-ACC Academic team to conclude last year's season.
Davis started in all 54 games and finished the season with the team's second highest batting average (.328). She tied fifth in the ACC with four triples and had 16 multiple-hit games. When pitching, Davis truck out 10 batters in 25.1 innings, ending with a 1-2 record.
Returning to the circle, Osherow ended the season with 197.1 innings tossed, including 14 complete games and a 15-19 record. Joining Virginia's pitching staff is transfer student Tabby Dabney. Named the 2017 Richard Bland College Female Athlete of the Year, she pitched 73 innings and accumulated 44 strikeouts.
Virginia opened the 2018 season last weekend at the Cowgirl Classic hosted by McNeese State. While there, the Cavaliers went 2-3, defeating Houston Baptist and Southern, and falling to McNeese State twice and Tulsa.
UNCG is the clear favorite in the Southern Conference, earning the most points in the SoCon Coaches' Preseason Poll.
The Spartans claimed the regular-season title, but fell to Samford University in the Southern Conference Tournament, bringing their 2017 season to an end. They posted a 29-24 overall record and went 11-6 in the SoCon.
UNCG would finish the 2017 season with a .257 batting average, 61 homeruns and 241 RBIs. The Spartans finished seventh in batting and fourth in pitching with a 4.01 ERA in the SoCon.
Redshirt sophomore Marisa Sholtes returns to the Spartans' lineup. In the 2017 season, Sholtes had the highest batting average on the team, .330, 10 homeruns and 31 RBIs.
Returning to the circle for the Spartans, Alicia Bazonski was ranked fifth overall in the SoCon with a 3.32 ERA and an 18-14 record. Bazonski struck out 113 and threw two shutouts. Joining the pitching staff is freshman Hannah Stiltner. Last year, Stiltner earned all-conference, all-state and was named the North Carolina Mid-State 3A Pitcher of the Year.
UNCG opened the 2018 season at the Kickin' Chicken Classic at Costal Carolina, going 3-1 with wins against Presbyterian, Saint Francis (Pa.) and Iowa State, and falling to host Costal Carolina.
The Lady Bisons' finished the 2017 season with an overall record of 36-20 and 8-10 in the Atlantic Sun conference.
The fifth seed in the ASUN Conference Softball Tournament, Lipscomb's season ended when they lost 3-1 to the fourth seed, Florida Gulf Coast. They finished fourth in both batting and pitching with a .260 batting average and 2.11 ERA.
Returning to the 2018 roster is infielder and pitcher Caitlin Plocheck. Plocheck made the ASUN All-Conference first team and the NFCA Southeast Region third team. In the ASUN, she was second with nine homeruns, tied ninth with 32 RBIs and sixth in slugging with .566. Plochek finished the season with a .997 fielding percentage.
Also returning is junior pitcher Mandy Jordon. Jordon was named ASUN Co-Pitcher of the Year by the preseason poll. She finished the 2017 season second in conference with a 1.46 ERA and an overall record of 23-11.
Lipscomb opened the season with two wins at the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores, Ala., defeating Georgia Tech and Ole Miss.
UMass finished the 2017 season with an overall record of 29-24 and 13-6 in conference. The Minutewomen's season came to a close in a nine-inning, 2-1 loss against the Fordham Rams in the Atlantic 10 Championship.
UMass was second overall in the A-10 and had two squad members make the all-region team. The Minutewomen ended with a team batting average of .268 and they hit 59 doubles 12 homeruns in their 1431 total at bats.
Juniors Kaitlyn Stavinoha and Erin Stacevicz are among those returning to the 2018 roster. Both started in all 53 games and lead the team with .358 and .335 batting averages, respectively. Stacevicz made the All-Atlantic 10 Second-Team and Stavinoha rounded out the season with 38 RBIs, a .460 slugging percentage and went 5-for-5 when stealing bases.
Returning to the circle is Meg Colleran. The senior finished the 2017 season with a 20-14 record, 119 strikeouts and four shutouts. Colleran was named the Atlantic 10 Championship Most Outstanding Player and was second in the league in wins.
Joining Colleran in the circle is freshman Kiara Oliver. Oliver was named the 2016 Rhode Island Gatorade and Providence Player of the Year and made the Rhode Island First-Team All-State team twice in her career.
UMass opened the 2018 season at the Tiger Classic, going 1-3 with a win against Southern Miss. And falling to Syracuse, UT Arlington and #8 LSU.
SCOUTING JACKSONVILLE STATE
Jacksonville State is slated to win the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title. They took the crown in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
The Gamecocks finished their 2017 season 41-12 overall and 15-1 in conference. Their winning record secured the regular-season title for the second year in a row and the third time in the past four seasons.
Jacksonville State tied Belmont for the highest batting average in the OVC, .300, and was first in pitching with an ERA of 1.81. The team had a fielding percentage of .972.
Among the returners are Emily Woodruff and Hayley Sims. Woodruff received All-OVC honors for the second year running and successfully stole 14 out of 17 attempted bases. Sims finished her sophomore season with a .303 batting average and only committed one fielding error.
Faith Sims and Kirsten Titus will return to the circle this season. Sims finished the season with a 2.95 ERA in her 19 innings pitched and Titus tossed 10 innings, allowing only four runs scored. Joining the veterans is freshman Nicole Rodriguez; she made the Florida All-State team three times and recorded a 1.24 ERA in high school.
Jacksonville State opened the season with a 3-2 record at the River City Leadoff. The Gamecocks defeated Army twice and Jacksonville once, while falling to Jacksonville and UConn.
After their trip to Florida, the Bobcats will head to Raleigh, N.C. where they will participate in the NC State Tournament, hosted by North Carolina State. While there, Ohio will face Delaware State, Wagner and NC State.